October 11, 2022
👋 Good morning! Welcome back from the long weekend. In case you're wondering, Kendall will be back tomorrow.
Today's word count: 1,472 words (6 minutes).
1 big thing: 🏈 Beasts of the East
The NFC East has spent years as the NFL's punching bag, but after three more wins on Sunday its 14-6 record is the best among all divisions.
- Eagles (5-0): They remain the lone undefeated team after beating Arizona, 20-17. Philly's also got a star in Jalen Hurts, whose 6 rushing TD and 8.5 yards per pass attempt both rank second in the NFL.
- Cowboys (4-1): The defense flexed again in a 22-10 win over the Rams, as Dallas has yet to allow more than 19 points in a game. Only the Bills (61) and 49ers (61) have allowed fewer points than the Cowboys (72).
- Giants (4-1): With a 27-22 comeback victory over the Packers in London, New York has already matched last season's win total. This is their best record through five games since starting 5-0 in 2009.
- Commanders (1-4): Washington at least came away with a moral victory when rookie RB Brian Robinson made his NFL debut just six weeks after being shot twice in the leg.
The big picture: This is just the fourth time since 2002 — when the NFL expanded to eight divisions — that any division has had three teams with at least four wins through Week 5.
- Justin's automatic: Justin Tucker's walk-off field goal was his 61st consecutive make in the fourth quarter or OT. He's also 18-for-18 lifetime in the final minute of regulation and OT.
- Streak snapped: The Jets' 40-17 rout over the Dolphins snapped a 12-game divisional losing streak, dating back to 2019.
- Winless no more: The Texans (1-3-1) got their first win of the year, making this just the third season since the merger that every team has at least one win through five weeks.
- New protocols: The league updated its concussion protocols in the wake of the Tua Tagovailoa controversy, prohibiting players from returning if they show signs of ataxia — an abnormality of balance or stability. The first player removed under the new rules was Tua's backup, Teddy Bridgewater.
🏆 Read: NFL quarter-season awards (The Ringer)
2. ⚾️ Stat du jour: Pitchers throw gas
As the Division Series get underway today, keep an eye on the mound: never before have so many pitchers thrown so hard.
By the numbers: 11 different pitchers have already thrown a 100-mph pitch during these playoffs. That's two shy of the record for most in a single postseason, and four teams have yet to even take the field.
- Fastest pitch: Mariners righty Andrés Muñoz against Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (102.9 mph).
The big picture: This rise in pitchers throwing gas is in keeping with what we saw in the regular season, when there were a record-shattering 3,370 pitches thrown at least 100 mph. The previous record came in 2016, with just 1,948 such pitches.
3. 🏈 AP poll: JMU is in, Illinois is back
Georgia reclaimed the top spot after then-No. 1 Alabama was nearly upset at home by Texas A&M, but it's the poll's three newcomers who provide the most excitement this week.
- No. 25 James Madison is ranked just five games into its FBS tenure, having joined the Sun Belt this season after dominating the FCS for years.
- No. 24 Illinois is ranked for the first time since 2011, ending the longest Power 5 drought for the second consecutive week (No. 19 Kansas held the distinction until last week). The longest such drought now belongs to Rutgers (2012).
- No. 22 Texas annihilated Oklahoma, 49-0, for the Longhorns' largest margin of victory ever in the Red River Rivalry.
Conference call: Despite LSU falling out of the top 25, the SEC still leads the way with six ranked teams, followed by the Big 12 (5), ACC (4), Big Ten (4) Pac-12 (4), American (1) and Sun Belt (1).
4. ⚡️ Lightning round
⚾️ Historic comeback: The Mariners completed the second-largest comeback in MLB postseason history on Saturday, erasing a seven-run deficit against the Blue Jays to advance to the ALDS.
🏈 One coach out: The Panthers fired head coach Matt Rhule on Monday after a 1-4 start and 11-27 record overall since taking over in 2020. Carolina still owes Rhule over $40 million.
⚾️ One coach in: The Phillies gave interim manager Rob Thomson a two-year contract on the eve of their NLDS appearance, removing "interim" from his title four months after he took over for Joe Girardi.
🎓 Nike NIL deals: Bronny James was among five basketball players to sign NIL deals with Nike on Monday. Others include Iowa's Caitlin Clark and Stanford's Haley Jones, both first-team All-Americans last season.
⛳️ DJ's big payday: Dustin Johnson clinched LIV's inaugural points title in Bangkok on Sunday for an $18 million bonus. Add that to his winnings through six of eight events ($12.8 million), and he's already earned over $30 million — that's plus his $125 million signing bonus.
5. 💵 Mbappé: World's highest-paid soccer player
Kylian Mbappé will earn $128 million this season, making him the world's highest-paid soccer player, per Forbes.
Why it matters: PSG's 23-year-old superstar supplants both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who'd held the top two spots on this list every year since 2014.
By the numbers: The top 10 will cumulatively earn a record $652 million, up 11% from last year's $585 million. They play for seven clubs and have a combined 1.3 billion Instagram followers.
- Mbappé, PSG: $128 million ($110 million on-field; $18 million off-field)
- Messi, PSG: $120 million ($65 million; $55 million)
- Ronaldo, Manchester United: $100 million ($40 million; $60 million)
- Neymar, PSG: $87 million ($55 million; $32 million)
- Mohamed Salah, Liverpool: $53 million ($35 million; $18 million)
- Erling Haaland, Manchester City: $39 million ($35 million; $4 million)
- Robert Lewandowski, Barcelona: $35 million ($27 million; $8 million)
- Eden Hazard, Real Madrid: $31 million ($27 million; $4 million)
- Andrés Iniesta, Vissel Kobe: $30 million ($25 million; $5 million)
- Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City: $29 million ($25 million; $4 million)
6. 🇺🇸 Photos across America
KANSAS CITY, Mo.— Travis Kelce scored a "Monday Night Football" record 4 TD as the Chiefs — down 17-0 early — came back to beat the Raiders, 30-29.
- 🏈 Wild stat: The Raiders are 1-4, but their scoring differential is just -5, with their four losses coming by 14 points combined.
SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake's Justin Meram celebrates with his son on Sunday after clinching their playoff spot with a final-day victory for the second consecutive season.
- 🏆 The big picture: Salt Lake is one of just three teams in the playoffs who've won the MLS Cup before (NYC FC, LA Galaxy).
CHICAGO — Sunday's marathon saw two women accomplish incredible feats: Emily Sisson demolished the American record by 43 seconds and Susannah Scaroni won the wheelchair race for her third top-three finish in the past three weeks.
- 👟 Read: Results and highlights (Runner's World)
CONCORD, N.C. — Christopher Bell celebrates his victory as the NASCAR Cup Series playoff field is narrowed to eight drivers with four races left.
7. 🌎 Photos around the world
SUZUKA, Japan — Max Verstappen clinched his second straight F1 championship with Sunday's win, his 12th of the season.
- 🏁 What to watch: Verstappen is two wins shy of breaking the single-season record with four races left.
MANCHESTER, England — Erling Haaland on Saturday scored his 15th Premier League goal in just his ninth game, obliterating the previous record for fastest to 15 EPL goals (15 games).
- ⚽️ By the numbers: He has nearly twice as many goals this season as second place (Harry Kane, 8).
PRAGUE — The Predators are off to an early 2-0 start, sweeping the Sharks in their season-opening Global Series matchup over the weekend.
- 🏒 Read: NHL season preview (ESPN)
LONDON — The USWNT fell to England on Friday, 2-1, in front of 76,893 fans at Wembley, the largest crowd to ever watch a USWNT friendly.
8. 📺 Watchlist: Eight teams left
All four Division Series begin today, and three of them take the name literally as they're being fought between divisional foes.
- 1pm ET, Fox: Phillies at Braves ... Ranger Suárez (10-7, 3.65 ERA) vs. Max Fried (14-7, 2.48). ATL won the season series, 11-8.
- 3:30pm, TBS: Mariners at Astros ... Logan Gilbert (13-6, 3.20) vs. Justin Verlander (18-4, 1.75). HOU, 12-7.
- 7:30pm, TBS: Guardians at Yankees ... Cal Quantrill (15-5, 3.38) vs. Gerrit Cole (13-8, 3.50). NYY, 5-1.
- 9:30pm, FS1: Padres at Dodgers ... Mike Clevinger (7-7, 4.33) vs. Julio Urías (17-7, 2.16). LAD, 14-5.
More to watch:
- 🏒 NHL: Lightning at Rangers (7:30pm, ESPN); Golden Knights at Kings (10pm, ESPN) ... Opening Night in North America.
- ⚽️ Champions League: Eight games (12:45pm, 3pm, Paramount+) ... Group stage Matchday 4 of 6.
- ⚽️ Friendly: Spain vs. USWNT (2:30pm, ESPN2)
- 🏀 NBA preseason: Grizzlies at Magic (7pm, NBA); Trail Blazers at Warriors (10pm, NBA)
9. ⚾️ MLB trivia
Can you name last year's four Division Series matchups?
- Hint: Two were between divisional foes.
Answer at the bottom.
10. 🍿 Top plays: Weekend edition
Jeff "SpongeBob" Tracy
Trivia answer: Red Sox over Rays; Astros over White Sox; Braves over Brewers; Dodgers over Giants
🙏 Have a great day! Follow us for more (@kendallbaker and @jeffreytracy). Friends can sign up here. Thanks to Bryan McBournie for copy edits.